When he finds himself in times of trouble, the Good Lord ain’t got no truck with that blaady Mother Mary type wailing away in his ear’ole. If he wants words of wisdom, he just sends the SugSignal into the Harlow night, and waits for his crack team of superhero interrogators to kapow the smiles from the faces of his candidates.
And who’s on this team? Blammo! Claude Littner, AKA Uncle Irritated, ruthless recruiter. Biff! Alan Watts, AKA Dr Teethy, litigation lawyer and character scourer. Spang! Bordan Tkachuk, AKA The Sour Elf, Lord Sugar’s tech guy and lead nitpicker. And kerboombamdzof! Back for one night only, rustling like the ancient papyri she is now permanently immersed in as if she were a hamster bedding down for the winter, it’s Mount Margaret Mountford Ford herself.
It’s The Interview Squad! And they will DESTROY YOU!
The candidates are summoned by the sexyladyvoice to Viglen, the penile dysfunction/spam email wing of the Good Lord’s empire. Joanna and a still somewhat broken Jamie muttered their apprehension over the sizzling ‘n’ roasting they were about to face. Stella and Chris were quietly and monotonously confident, in that order, and Stuart “I’ve got it in the” Baggs rolled over and snuggled up to his Lord Sugar teddy for another five minutes’ snoozy time.
Stella found herself being mother, trying to rouse the sleeping Brand. Peeking round his door, she asked “Are you decent?” This would later turn out to be an astoundingly astute and prophetic question. Joanna, meanwhile, found a moment to kick the prone body of Jamie while it was lying shuddering on the floor, telling him he was a big scruffball compared to almost-identically-suited Chris. That’s not very nice, whimpered Jamie in response, while Chris smirked and straightened his pocket hanky. If today was the day he went down, then he was going down dapper.
They swished through the brooding and apprehensive London skies in their rain-streaked cabs looking brooding and apprehensive. On arriving at Vitner, Vilger, Viglen, whatever, they stood on the Balcony of Doom and were told this week, there would be THREE firings. Baggs crumpled his face with the strain of calculation. That meant only two would survive. Baggs nodded in knowledgeable agreement.
Then, through the eerily empty offices of Vigbo, like the four horsemen of the passive-aggressive apocalypse, they came: the Interview Squad. And here, in no particular order as they adore saying on that other noisy show on the commoners’ channel, is how they mangled the Apprentices.
Chris was only 15 seconds into his first interview before his motionless features were blown micrometres out of position by Uncle Irritable’s truth bombs. It’s the easy way, no bullshit, or the hard way, veritably paved with bullshit, bullshit dripping off the walls which are themselves constructed of bullshit, Unc threatened. Which was it to be? Gulping, Chris chose the bullshit-free path and crashed headlong into Mount Margaret, who threw back in his face his statement that he was “revered as one of the best theology scholars in the country.” Revered, rumbled Mt Marg? Do you even know what that means? Chris claimed he was revered at school, which makes him the Fonz of theology, raising nun’s habits with the click of a finger and knowing the sweet spot to punch on the church organ to produce a really scintillating rendition of We Plow The Fields And Scatter. Mt Marg sent him on the way with accusations of being nothing but a big academic bragger.
Back for round two with the Unc, and Chris was taken to task for dropping out of a law degree and quitting his cushy investment banking job after just nine months. Quit-quit-quitter, barked Unc, leaving Chris to gasp and splutter that there were perfectly good reasons for all the quittings, and he had no intention of exiting the Good Lord’s Ride until it had come to a full and complete stop. So, you think you’re the strongest in this process, do you? snickered the Sour Elf, in the last interview. Chris pointed out his record-breaking PM-ship, his sales record, blah, blah, blah, but his monotone won out and the Sour Elf drifted happily off into a deep and disturbingly Santa-phillic dream.
Joanna was next up on the griddle, looking from the moment she set foot in the Vijazzle offices that she was a gentle poke away from utter mental breakdown and Alice In Wonderland-style tear-drowning. The Sour Elf starts off gently, with the “So, Lord Sugar. What the hell does he actually do, anyway?” question that wrongfoots someone every damn year. But Joanna was not au fait with the ways of the ‘Strad. Staring sadly into the longest awkward silence ever broadcast on television without the emergency tape kicking in, she admitted that she was unprofessional. Not so, quoth the Elf. Unprepared, more like.
Reeling, Joanna then had to face the furious irritability of the Unc, but he was clearly in his ten-minute avuncular phase. Although he got in a dig about her lack of aspirations after starting a self-confessed easy cleaning business and keeping it just ticking over to support herself, the Unc shook his great blubbering head in shame that she didn’t make more of herself and her business. The Good Lord can teach, he said, but not without getting anything in return. Joanna heaved a great sigh and confessed to the other candidates that the whole thing was mental torture. She should have turned on her foghorn voice to even the scores a little on that.
Now Jamie, who had passed through gloom into a kind of fixed-grin, giggling hysteria. First the Sour Elf unravelled a great deal of his CV purely by tugging at the word “solely” – Jamie was not “solely” responsibly for anything in his business life, it seems, apart from his own tittering downfall – and then Mt Margaret spotted an application quip. “What is interesting about you? That you have a third nipple. Then, two pages later, what’s the biggest lie you’ve ever told? That you have a third nipple. Is that supposed to make me laugh?” asked Mt Marg, appropriately stone-faced. “Nipple,” Jamie chuckled away to himself. Mt Marg was unimpressed and declared Jamie puerile, immature, and deserving of three weeks’ detention. Jamie hung his head like the cowed schoolboy he was.
But that was the least of his worries, as the Sour Elf was not done with him. Jamie, Cyprus estate agent extraordinaire, was perhaps not as extraordinary as he had claimed. A heart-rending tale was spun of an invisible partner who squirreled 50% of the profits from Jamie while doing 1% of the work, but the Sour Elf was sour and would not be moved by Jamie’s frantic blame-passing. Jamie was responsible for getting sales and sales there were none. Thus Jamie was a loser, and the Sour Elf was a winner. Jamie could do nothing but mutter single-syllable non-sequiturs and shake his head like he was trying to dislodge the cloak of low self-esteem shrouding his thought processes.
We are not at Baggs yet. We are nearly at Baggs.
First, we must suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous Stella, who revealed that she built her current Japanese banking automoton from the base of a poor kid growing up on an estate with no GCSEs. A rare appearance from Dr Teethy labelled her standoffish, to which she replied standoffishly; The Unc tried to challenge her on her abrupt career change from corporate clone to Knees Up Mother Brown-screeching entrepreneurial wizard, but she smoothly batted away his criticisms. Clearly the most experienced of the Apprentices at this sort of thing, being the sole one who had actually had an interview before, even a low jab accusing her of being nowt but a trumped-up PA failed to rattle her unduly.
And now Baggs. A flying start from the delusional child, as he trilled “Margaret!” on greeting the awesome Mt Mountford. She was most displeased at his insolence, and even more displeased as he expounded upon one of his several million ideas from his Baggs-brain, for a tracking chip to be implanted upon a pet or, to take an example at random, a lone pony escaping from a field of its pony peers. A classic Mountford dramatic-lemur eye-reaction was Baggs’ prize for his assertion that he would work 24/7 for the Good Lord (“And give 110%, I expect?” she drawled drolly), which he accepted with no trace of irony. Dr Teethy went for the opening gambit “You’re not very nice, are you? No, let me finish…” and recounted the Baggs’ affinity for libelling his competitors in newspapers and trampling the opposition instead of promoting his own rapidly dwindling good qualities. Sweat started pouring profusely from the Baggs top lip as he entered the lair of Uncle Irritable and offered his hand to shake, and was left utterly hanging.
The Unc was in fine fettle, channelling the Apprentice viewership by asking what the hell he thought he was doing by labelling himself The Brand like a great bell-end. If you’re so bloody cool, roared Unc, why would you even need a job with Lord Sugar? “I am a big fish in a small pond,” cried Baggs. “You are not even a fish,” countered Unc, “unless there is a hiterto undiscovered fish constructed entirely of bell-ends,” added the viewership. Bellendius Brandus – delicious with chips and hasta la vista gravy.
And the Baggs-beating concluded with the Sour Elf, who’d been on the phone to his Isle Of Man spies, and discovered that Stuart’s claim to be a fully-licensed telecoms doohicky was a fabrication the size of the moon. He was, in fact, a sort-of-half-licensed telecoms doohicky, only having some kind of doohicky license that any man, woman or pony could buy off the internet for tuppence ha’penny. A McKeith telecoms doohicky, if you will. Stuart tried to deny his fibs, distracting the Sour Elf by randomly asking his name halfway through a sentence and attempting to bond with him over the minutae of telecoms technicalities, but the Elf had got out his big Blagger stamp and was stamping the Baggs dossier as fast as his sour, shrunken arms could manage.
Not that Stuart noticed, of course. It was all banter and good sport in the sprained mind of the Baggs. He was watching the hearts pop around him, for he had made a new friend. Telecoms friend!
And they were soon to be reunited – it was Boardroom time.
The Interview Squad were pleased as punch to be in the boardroom, especially Mt Margaret, who had lippyed her higher peaks up nicely for the occasion. There was a certain frission in the room, between the Sour Elf – whose opinions were much maligned along the way – and Karen “Baby Mount” Brady, who disagreed most of all in flirty fervour. Despite the deafening clatter of fumbling footsie under the table, the fab four were able to state their opinions. Joanna: a self-starter but too defensive and needs a business studies GCSE. Chris: a boring droning borehound with a brain the size of a planet, most likely to achieve tumescence when looking at his Record Of Achievement. Jamie: an “I’m-a-key-cog-wheel-cog-something-I don’t know” stammering fool, who blames everything on everyone else and has been destroyed by the Apprentice machinery. Stella: god, that girl can file and photocopy. And Stuart: we’re sorry, Lord Sugar. He lied to you. And he lied BIG.
The Good Lord steamed like a tea-kettle but played it cool. “So, Stuart, how was it?” he asked innocently, after the Apprentices had regrouped and all said the same old nonsense about how much they’ve learned and grown. “Pretty tough, darling,” cooed Baggs, still basking in the afterglow of the Good Lord’s previous praise. But the wrath, when it came, was uncontained. The Good Lord was apoplectic that he had been scammed for so long, and that the legendary Baggs-blag of last week had gotten Liz binned before her time. He fumed. He furied. “Goddammit, Baggs, I hate myself for ever loving you. You’re fired.”
The silence was stunning.
The dominoes fell pretty quickly after that – the tears finally arrived for Joanna as she was told she should leave with her head held high and come back when she’d learnt what accountancy was, and Jamie was angrily dispatched for still somehow being there. So, Stella and Chris. The robot and the statue. It’s the worst Aesops’ fable ever.
Why we will miss Stuart Baggs: “You’ve got to show you’ve got balls and minerals.” Don’t leave us for long, StuBaggs.
Next week: They’re all back. It all ends. And hecklerspray finally sleeps.